Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Not the First Bad Idea, Not the Last

by Crina Hoyer

Here in the northwest corner of Washington State we have a long history of stopping bad ideas before they start. 

When outside corporations proposed a nuclear power plant in Skagit County, when an aluminum smelter was proposed for Guemes Island, when the SE2 power plant was proposed in Sumas or when the Georgia Strait Crossing pipeline idea was put forward - we stopped them.

We spoke up by the hundreds - sometimes by the thousands - and actively participated in the process. We testified, wrote letters, submitted comments and made sure that the decision makers we elected to represent us voted for a brighter, cleaner future for our community.

When it comes to the plan to site North America's largest coal export terminal at the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve, we expect the same result.

The recent success by the volunteers with Proposition 2 in collecting 10,000 signatures in just a few months underscores the strength and depth of the concern local citizens have with this massive coal terminal. Even though Bellingham voters won't have this on their November ballot, the public concerns aren't going away. If anything, they're getting stronger.

At RE Sources we've been working to channel this public concern into productive public participation. Three months ago RE Sources and Power Past Coal quietly opened a campaign office in downtown Bellingham to empower people to participate in the review process for the coal terminal. While SSA, Peabody Coal and Burlington Northern have deep pockets for slick mailings, newspaper ads and paid canvassers to deliver propaganda to your doorstep, they are up against a more powerful force: you.
 In the past few months hundreds of people have volunteered to make more than 20,000 phone calls to residents of Whatcom County. What we hear from every corner is that people are worried. North America's largest coal export terminal may cost us too much:

... higher taxes when the public is forced to subsidize railroad crossings; lost economic opportunities when businesses locate elsewhere; loss of our crab fishery at Cherry Point; harm to our salmon runs and the potential for a catastrophic spill if SSA is allowed to add 974 massive, heavy ship transits through the Straits each year.

Peabody Coal, SSA and Burlington Northern envision a grim future for us. But if their ideas were right for our county, they wouldn't need high-powered PR firms, TV ads and glossy mailers to sell them to us! Whatcom County is a great place to live, work and raise our families. I envision a cleaner, better future for Whatcom County. We can do better than a coal terminal.
Let's focus on what we want: good jobs at a redeveloped waterfront, renewable energy systems that ensure long-term security, local businesses that thrive and expand and an agricultural and fishing economy that can provide high-quality food for the world. That's the vision Whatcom County has talked about for more than a decade but we can't have that future if we are also host to North America's largest coal export terminal.

If you'd like to help get the word out about the ill-conceived plans for the coal terminal, stop by our office in downtown Bellingham. Join hundreds of your neighbors in empowering our community to participate in the process. We promise you this: if you donate two hours, you can make a difference for a better future for Whatcom County.

This isn't the first bad idea we've stopped cold in the northwest. It probably won't be the last. But together we can win.

Crina Hoyer is the executive director of RE Sources for Sustainable Communities. RE Sources promotes sustainable communities through education, advocacy and the conservation of natural resources. For information online go to

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